Will Vettel decimate F1 field when team gets new diffuser? Red Bull Racing is facing a ‘significant’ challenge to incorporate a ‘double-decker’ diffuser into its Adrian Newey-penned RB5, but team principal Christian Horner is optimistic of being able to introduce the new design in ‘one of the early European races’ – and with it take the fight to Brawn GP at the very front of the grid.
Red Bull has on balance been the quickest of the non-diffuser teams over the opening two grands prix of the 2009 Formula 1 World Championship campaign in Australia and Malaysia – and in qualifying in Shanghai Sebastian Vettel put the car on pole even without the new diffuser. Once Adrian Newey completes his design there may be nothing stopping Vettel, who is certainly the most talented F1 driver, from decimating the F1 field.
“It impacts on the whole rear end of the car. It is significant, and obviously the only hole it has left us is in our budget," said Red Bull boss Christian Horner. "It is a significant amount of cost in not a great climate, but [given] the performance you can see today – [with] six of the cars in the top eight running that solution – we have to do it in order to maintain our competitiveness.
“It’s a big challenge to develop a car without any testing, so it really stretches the team. It’s going to be a real challenge to develop the cars through the season without testing, but simulation tools – whether they be wind tunnels or cfd – seem to be getting closer and closer in correlation to the track, which means that you can hit the circuit with a large percentage of items that you can bolt on and know you are going to get some performance out of.
“The guys, led by Adrian, have done a fantastic job this winter and the decision to release the car late was the right thing to optimize the time in the wind tunnel, but now to be faced with an upgrade with the quantum of this one is going to be a significant challenge. [It is] difficult to put an exact date on when we will be able to introduce our own solution, but it will be one of the early European races.
“On the positive side is looking at the performance of our car so far this year. Without it (the double-decker diffuser) we have been pretty competitive – the only car in the top eight today with if you like a standard solution – so hopefully what we can look forward to is a further step in competitiveness when we do introduce it.”
Despite the governing body’s final verdict on Wednesday, Horner remains adamant that Red Bull and its six non-diffuser rivals were in the right with their designs, and that the three dissenters were ‘certainly against the spirit of what was set out within the Overtaking Working Group’ – even if he conceded that ‘there was a lot of ambiguity within the regulations’.
“It’s no coincidence that seven teams didn’t go down the double diffuser route,” the 35-year-old underlined. “Obviously a lot of work was done in the Overtaking Working Group, and within the regulations there is a spirit or essence of what the regulations are set to achieve. Certainly the precedent of holes in the floor, from our perspective, was deemed to be illegal, so that’s why we chose the route that we did to protest the cars together with our colleagues at the first opportunity.
“That wasn’t after the cars had run; it was before they had run in Australia, to really get clarity. Obviously the stewards and the FIA made their position known there, and then the option to us was to appeal that. We feel that we had a fair appeal hearing, where the facts were presented from either side. I think the bottom line is that there was a lot of ambiguity within the regulations, and you can call it a clever interpretation, if you like, that the three teams have taken.
“I think it was certainly against the spirit of what was set out within the Overtaking Working Group. However, the court found that these diffusers are permitted. The teams obviously were in dispute with each other, but I think it’s important that FOTA (the Formula One Teams’ Association) sits down in the near future and discusses the issues. For sure it’s our biggest test in its infancy, but I think it’s important that these issues are discussed behind closed doors and solutions are found.
“As I say, we felt we had a fair hearing, we presented our case which was listened to carefully but now we’re in a situation where, as they are permitted, we have no choice but to develop our own solution. That is obviously time and money and a big development channel that becomes open, because the underbody is the most powerful aerodynamic device on the car and so lap times will continue to tumble significantly as the solutions are developed.”